According to a survey of 129 attendees at the most recent Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) Congress, the vast majority of respondents (83.7%) reported that their hospitals had a problem with surgical patients arriving in the theatre cold.
The survey, carried out by Arizant UK, a patient temperature management company, also found that, of those facilities acknowledging cold patients, more than 30% said this was a common issue that affected over half of their surgical patients.
Of the 72 responses which indicated that at least a quarter of their surgical patients were already cold when entering surgery, only six said they actively prewarmed on a regular (more than 50% of the time) basis.
More than 7% of those surveyed said they actively warmed on a regular basis during surgery; however, it should be remembered that it is much harder to re-warm a cold patient than to maintain patient normothermia.
While the benefits of active warming during surgery are widely recognised, these results suggest that the same cannot be said of active warming in the pre-operative stage.
Actively warming patients prior to anaesthesia induction is an effective way to help prevent intraoperative hypothermia in many surgical cases.
Unintended hypothermia has been associated with adverse outcomes such as an increased rate of wound infection, increased length of hospital stay and higher mortality rates.
Unintended hypothermia can be easily prevented. Active warming methods, such as forced-air warming, can add to the total heat content of the body before surgery to help offset heat lost through anaesthesia-induced heat redistribution.